Every time we travel we remind ourselves before leaving that we must remember to take less clothing with us. Invariably we pack far too much, including not only smalls and undergarments, but shirts, pants, socks and shoes. In other words, everything. Once we arrive at our destination the world of fashion takes a sharp turn in another direction; viz., comfort. This translates to the most rudimentary apparel. I prescribe my commentary by restricting it to the male old fogey routine; and, by the way, we have long ago forsaken the necessity to have anything appropriate for the theatre or upscale dining. Our standard of social convention is strictly confined to waterfront dining where one tends to see motorcycles parked outside; and we have dumped any activity which extends beyond eight o’clock in the evening.
There are two overriding themes of costume in a subtropical environment such as Key Largo; namely, accessibility and simplicity. Even a heavier cotton Polo shirt is abandoned for the preference of linen which breathes more easily. If in the course of one’s perambulations about the area one sees a clothing store it is not uncommon to pick up another rag that speaks to the raiment vernacular. One must however be wary not to capitulate entirely to the local retail custom since there is a tendency to label oneself as vulgar. The shirts patterned with flowers and the like instantly remark one as a transient and somewhat comical. The prescriptions of fashion simplicity prevail no matter where one is. Dark clothing is a mistake. Anything to avoid absorption of the burning rays is preferred. By way of general application I prefer expandable belts and oversized short pants; that is, nothing tight.
When one’s daily habits involve cycling and the swimming pool, fashion is naturally restricted accordingly. It is not uncommon to survive day after day in a bathing suit and loose shirt. As for footwear I have personally never cottoned to flip-flops or Crocs; instead the standard boat shoes satisfy my clothing and comfort requirements.
Traditionally I would not have worn a watch – except in my earlier days of Rolex, Cartier and Breitling when I confess the immediate desire was to show off the article. Now however I wear an Apple Watch because of its convenience. Several days ago for example I went for a tricycle ride and within 100 yards of our front door my Apple Watch began making a shrill chirp. When I looked at the watch it advised me I had left behind my iPhone. I carry the iPhone with me everywhere. Not only does it enable me to read books and email but also to call someone in the event of a flat tyre or other difficulty. I also use it regularly to take photos (now my amateur hobby). Otherwise the watch is a bit of a nuisance since I do not relish testing its waterproof capacity. As for the watch leaving a white strip upon one’s carcass in competition with an overall tan, it is a sufferable concession of old age and a mark of one’s carelessness and casualness.
As for jewellery, this is a sensitive subject. Eight years ago in a moment of expiation when I retired I sold my gold jewellery (all except my signet ring which has become part of my body). As my passion (like a burgeoning famine) for jewellery began to resurface and overtake once again I chose instead sterling silver as an economic accommodation. That didn’t last long. Soon I was back to preferring gold. As recently as six months ago I gave all my sterling silver jewellery (rings, necklaces and bracelets) to my goldsmith for consignment sale. In exchange for this denial I had my goldsmith make me the most elemental ring and necklace, both in 18K gold. Jewellery on men is frequently an ostentation. However if the model is “conservative”, it is tolerable and speaks to a certain status and convention. I have been wearing jewellery for so long that I would feel strange without it, as though I had not worn my prescription glasses.
One final observation. Hair. Every year when we head south for the winter I resolve to let my hair grow. Of course it is an absurdity but it provokes a Bohemian feature which I find coincides particularly with the Florida Keys where just about anything goes. I have never succumbed to the business of beards though I noted yesterday while waiting in the Publix parking lot that many of the young men were bearded. Most of them looked simply unkempt but others had developed a certain attraction. Still I find beards to be an ethnic distraction. Being clean-shaven is the routine.